From Athens...to Columbus...to Chicago (layover).... to Salt Lake City....to Mapleton...back to Salt Lake City...back to Mapleton... to Las Vegas...back to Salt Lake City...back to Mapleton...back to Salt Lake City...back to Mapleton...back to Salt Lake City...back to Las Vegas (Layover)...back to Columbus...and finally, after 36+ family members, twenty days, four time zones, two near car accidents, and one set of keys locked in the car during a snow storm infront of a Subway restaurant in middle-of-nowhere Utah, we made it home to lovely, quiet, collegiate Athens, Ohio--this tiny dot of brick buildings and leafy trees that has begun to really feel like home.
By splitting our three-week westward Odyssey between our two families we were able to capture the Yin-Yang essence of our collective heritage. Time on the Franklin side of the world was fast-paced, noisy, kinetic, and occasionally explosive. We played loud games and ate loud food and told loud jokes. We hugged lots--fought some--and slept little. Mr. Baseball played with his cousin T. nonstop for three days straight, twirling with him through Jason's house in a blur of Legos, Hot Wheels, and video games, occasionally pausing for meals or to use the bathroom. More than once they stayed in their pajamas until dinner.
The Monkey however proved himself mostly in the way of the older boys and spent much of his time hanging out with the grown-ups. Aunt Misha and uncle Chad and Uncle Jason and Grandma Franklin were all a big help in that department, listening to his garbled talk, playing games with him, and in Chad's case, playing a guitar/harmonica duet with him for nearly five minutes (we've got video that we'll get up on here soon).
Time on the Fitzgerald side of the Universe was just as memorable, if not as crazy. We played Password and ate cranberry chicken, played in the snow and fed the horses, watched movies and made ginger bread houses, attended church and visited the neighbors with the new puppy.
Multiple times a day Mr. Baseball and the Monkey used Nana's couch pillows to build "secret hideouts" and when the two of them weren't playing with toys or banging on the piano or bouncing up and down the stairs, they were following Riley (Nana and Papa's dog) around, running their fingers through his fur, talking to him, bravely reaching a finger out to touch a casually protruding tooth, or limp paw. A few times we had to remind the boys to give the big dog some space.
Papa is a Bishop. Can you tell? And Nana, Thanks for all the stories.
When the Monkey saw Nana and Papa in September it took just a few seconds to decide they were pretty neat. This time around he couldn't wait to see them.
Some highlights from the entire trip:
Mini getaway for me and the QB: The Friday after we arrived in Utah, Nana and Papa took the boys so we could get away to SLC for a night. We stayed at the Raddison, visited an exotic ethnic restaurant (The Ikea Cafeteria) and shopped at exclusive retailers (this huge kitchen store called Gygi's that sold things like $165 stainless steel rolling pins--we bought...nothing). The view from the 14th floor was fantastic, and the quiet was long overdue. The snow storm in the morning forced us back to reality, and to Mapleton sooner than we were planning, but the trip was worth it.
An Unlikely Mormon DVD: Nana borrowed this DVD from a friend and we watched it together. Glenn Beck is a CNN commentator who joined the LDS church a few years ago. His is an inspiring story.
Spanish Fork Christmas Lights: The boys got to ride together with Nana and Papa on a long drive through a Christmas light show put on by Spanish Fork City.
Quiet time at Grandpa Franklin's: In addition to seeing Grandma Milly (86 years old) and lots of the Franklin extendeds that we rarely see, it was incredibly nice to simply BE at my parents condo in Las Vegas. The boys played well, and we did a lot of talking over cooking food in the kitchen. One night Mr. Baseball sat next to Grandpa Franklin on the couch for nearly half an hour and listened to him talk about being a crew member in the Naval Air Force.
Grandpa Franklin spent several years in the Navy riding in the glass nose of a P2V-7 Neptune like this one, and Mr. Baseball wanted to know all about it. "Finally," said Grandpa, "I've found an audience that appreciates my Navy stories."
Savior of the World production: On December 23rd we ate at One World Cafe in Salt Lake City with Nana, Papa, the QB's middle sister, Amy, and her new husband, Caleb, and QB's little sister. Then we went to the Savior of the World production on Temple Square at the Conference Center Little Theater. Besides being a top rate depiction of the Nativity Story, the two hour production touched me with its way of personalizing the stories of Joseph and Mary--what the social realities of the story would have been, and the burden they both must have felt. One touching scene involved a small shepherd boy whose come to see the new born Jesus. He's just heard the Angels proclaim "Unto you this day is born in the City of David, a Savior..." and looking at Mary he realizes that She is the "YOU" in the angelic proclamation and he repeats it to her, with added emphasis on the you. I've often thought about what the Shepherds would have felt that night, but never what Mary must have felt. I know what it feels like to hold a newborn in my arms, but The Newborn of all newborns? I can't imagine what that must have been like for her.
Christmas Morning: Happened in stages this year. At Jason's, the adults who could get up with our boys did and we passed around gifts and ate cinnamon rolls and little smokies. Then round two happened a few hours later when the rest of the house woke up and Jason's kids got in from their Mom's house. Rounds three happened at Nana and Papa's house Christmas evening. Rounds four and five happened in Portland and Las Vegas a few days later when parting folks brought gifts back home with them to members of the family couldn't make it. Round Six will happen as soon I get the package to my sister Sherri off my desk and in the mail (It's coming Sherri--We love you).
Christmas Night: We drove to Nana and Papa's in Mapleton for Christmas dinner and intended to return to SLC that night, but a storm kicked up and we only made it three exits northward before we turned around and decided to stay the night in Mapleton. Mr. Baseball was sad about the change of plans (he doesn't handle sudden change very well), but we watched Home Alone with the QBs little sister and he did okay (in fact, out of the four of us watching, he's the only one who managed to stay awake.
Banana Fritters at Jason's house: Continuing a long, sweet, greasy tradition at the Franklin's, we made Banana Fritters on December 26th. In preparation for the event Jason bought close to 4 dozen bananas. When uncle Chad saw them piled on the fridge like cases of beer on the porch of a frat house, he said something like "We'll never use all of those bananas." That morning, when the last fritter was fried there were no bananas left. Banana fritters, in case you are wondering, are the reason vegetable oil and powdered sugar were invented.
Papa's old Dump Truck: (As seen in header photo). Papa took me and the boys to see the dump truck he used to drive. It was a big truck and the boys got to sit in the cab and pull the air horn. AWOOOGA!
Games at the Cousins': The Sunday after Christmas we went to Nana's sister's house to see the extendeds on that side of the family and we played and ate and talked. Good times.
A few more pictures...not in any particular order:
Mr. Baseball and I built a miniature snow fort one morning. It was big enough for him at least.
No lines for Santa at the Provo Town Center, and no fee if we took our own photographs. The Monkey wasn't even scared of him.
Our poor little snowman had to be sculpted from a big pile of dry Utah snow because we couldn't get the snow to ball up.
Grandma Franklin put together a family dinner at Grandma Millie's condo and the Monkey stole the show.
The Monkey only crashed like this once during the entire trip. This was after he'd woken up from a late nap that he decided wasn't long enough.
Thanks Grandma for all the hugs.